Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gluten-Free Desserts Review : Shabtai Gourmet


Shabtai Gourmet, or should I call it Cinderella Sweets Ltd., (since they apparently go by both names) of Woodmere New York, recently contacted me to see if I would review their various gluten-free desserts. I told them up-front that they should carefully consider that request, since I am quite discerning in regards to gluten-free desserts, especially having written a book on Gourmet Gluten-Free Desserts (Recipes). I let them know I compare all other gluten-free desserts to those from my own book, which I feel are the best and as good or better than even many gluten-containing ones.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, Shabtai Gourmet / Cinderella Sweets still decided to ship me some desserts to review and compare to my own. Shabtai markets these desserts as Kosher / parve, Gluten-Free, Lactose Free, Casein Free, Dairy-Free, and Soy Free (they are labeled as such). And, their director of sales, Andrew Itzkowitz, tells me they have seen strong demand for gluten-free kosher desserts, even though these desserts are anything but "healthy". Their desserts seem to mimic many commercial desserts (gluten-containing) with their inclusion of oils (sometimes partially hydrogenated type), sugar, and eggs. But, then again, it is dessert we are talking about here, and oil, sugar and eggs are ubiquitous ingredients in many wonderful desserts!

The Gluten-Free Dessert Reviews

I will start with this one pound Seven Layer Gluten-Free Devils Food Cake. This dessert is quite nice (the layers alternate between a vanilla flavored creme filling and chocolate devils food cake, with the whole thing being coated with a fine layer of chocolate). This was one of the top couple items I had a chance to review, and I found that although it apparently shares the same devils food cake that the chocolate-covered cupcake things (see Ring Tings, below) used, this was much better, since the layering best preserved the overall moisture content and consistency and mouth-presence.

It reminds me of a giant Hostess brand Ho-Ho (tm) or similar commercial devils-food and creme cake type dessert or snack product. If you liked those types of snacks / treats / desserts, you will love this product. It's made from Whole Eggs, sugar, potato starch, partially hydrogenated palm oil, cocoa, cottonseed oil, tapioca starch, flavorings, and salt. There's 8 servings in a whole "log" like this, with each serving coming in at 220 calories (of which 100 are fat), with 18grams of sugar... and, no surprise with all those eggs: there's 75mg (i.e., 25% DV) cholesterol in a serving too. But, you are probably not interested in this for "health" reasons (aside from it fitting into your Celiac Disease / gluten-free diet). I had something similar a regional gluten-free bakery tried to create, and it was no where near as good as this. So, Shabtai gets a thumbs-up for this product, in the context that I am comparing to Ho-Ho's.

"Ring Tings" are essentially Shabtai's attempt at a Hostess (brand) cupcake or similar product. But, I found the cake to be dry / powdery. They use a whipped sugar and oil center for the cupcake's "creme filling". The devils food / chocolate cake (which, per the label is "moist chocolate cake with vanilla creme filling") is not exactly moist. It's the presence of the "creme" filling that makes the cake portion feel "moist" in the 7-layer version (which I reviewed above, and didn't mind), but with that filling only being in a single blob in the middle of this cupcake, these cupcakes don't have the same, likable texture as when the filling is evenly distributed in layers.

Bottom line: that "creme filling" is what is making up for a not so stellar cake, and this dependency becomes apparent in this creation. The cake formula could really be improved upon. So, Shabtai Gourmet, I can offer you one suggestion that will certainly improve your cakes quickly: buy my book and learn how to bake great gluten-free cakes - I guarantee the book (and, for your business, it is a valid expense and tax-deduction too... what more can you ask for?)

I would definitely suggest altering the flour composition, and upping the percentage of cocoa in the recipe, in order to get more chocolate flavor, and less powdery texture. When it comes to chocolate cake, Cocoa can be your friend (especially in gluten-free recipes and baking where added fiber/texture from cocoa is a huge plus).

This is their 12 ounce gluten-free raspberry roll, which is actually quite nice. (my picture was not the best - real life colors are better. The picture at start of this blog is the raspberry role in it's package) The liberal application of raspberry filling throughout the rolls of yellow cake make for a sweet, moist, very much unmistakably raspberry experience. The coconut on the surface was a nice touch too, and it all worked very well together.

It is casein free, soy free, lactose free, and zero trans fat - in addition to being gluten-free and safe for a Celiac diet. It contains eggs, sugar, potato starch, raspberry, oil coconut, and a few minor ingredients. The eggs are definitely making a big difference here, with their being enough to really bind the cake together and keep it moist. It's perhaps a bit more like a pound-cake recipe.

Both I and my wife enjoyed this one. I couldn't eat much of it at once due to how sweet it was, but the flavor and texture were pleasing. I'd say for a commercial packaged gluten-free dessert, this one is a winner if the flavor combination of raspberry and coconut sound good to you.


The only thing harder than photographing dark foods (like chocolate) and making it look nice is photographing a chocolate brownie in a aluminum tray like this :) Hopefully, you get the idea what the Shabtai Gourmet Gluten-Free Brownie looks like.

It's hard to go wrong with a dense chocolate brownie recipe like this. I am always into chocolate brownies, and this chewier, denser type is usually a favorite of mine. But, I must say, once again I have advise Shabtai to work on their formula - I'd increase the cocoa percentage (drop the potato starch down as an offset) and give this gluten-free brownie more chocolate flavor (something I consider rather important in a chocolate brownie). As it is now, the flavor is just "OK". I didn't mind it, and it has a somewhat typical commercial brownie taste and good chewy texture and is decent for gluten-free foods, but it could certainly be improved upon.

I guess it depends what the goal of this product is. If the goal is to be middle of the road, somewhat generic, commercial baked-goods brownie, it meets the objective. If the goal is to really stand out, it can use some work. Either way, it's OK now and I'm sure many would find it enjoyable, especially for a pre-made gluten-free dessert.


These cookies, called Gluten-Free Meltaway Crumbs, were actually pretty good. I'd give them a 7/10 rating, which is quite respectable for commercial cookies. They have a nice crunchy, solid feel with good overall texture on the palate, with a decent flavor combination with a noticeable and enjoyable presence of chocolate, pecans, and cinnamon.

Once again, these are marketed as gluten-free desserts which are also lactose-free, cassein-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. I think these cookies are good enough that if you put them out on a cookie tray at a party for the general public, they wouldn't have any reason to suspect they were gluten-free cookies. Instead, they'd assume you purchased them at your local grocery store's bakery or such. With the only common allergens remaining being nuts and eggs, this cookie should be a good option for many.


The gluten-free lady fingers (4 ounce box) - also lactose-free, casein-free, and soy-free - consist of just potato starch, sugar, eggs, natural flavor, and salt. They have a definite lemon flavor, and are super-light crispy things, much like what you may expect from a meringue cookie.

They will crumble into powder. There's just not much there for consistency beyond a light, crispy thing. I don't have much to compare these too, and they just aren't my kind of cookie. The flavor is fine (lemon), but it's not something I would normally eat. Maybe they are meant to be used to create some sort of layered-creations from. Either way, they were just "OK" for me.

Conclusion; and, Shabtai Gourmet Contact Information
In general, I feel you can certainly bake better gluten-free desserts yourself than you can purchase pre-made from Shatai Gourmet. But, I can also appreciate the fact that it is not always possible to allocate the time you need to do gluten-free baking yourself, and that a pre-made gluten-free dessert option may be all you can fit into your life.

If you like the taste of commercial / mainstream products like Hostess (brand) cakes, and perhaps a Keebler (brand) chocolate-chip cookie, or similar things, I think the Shabtai / Cinderella Sweet brand gluten-free desserts will most likely be a hit with you.

Their products are not something I would directly compare to homemade cakes and cookies, regardless of whether I was comparing gluten-free products or "regular" wheat/gluten-containing products to homemade. I think they fill a niche, and they will do fine in the market as such. Their products will probably be a hit with children - especially any kids that have been recently diagnosed with Coeliac / Celiac Disease and have had to give up snacks like Ho-Ho's.

CONTACTING THEM: When I spoke to them, they did not yet have a dedicated web-site, but instead provide the following contact information if you'd like to find out more about pricing, ordering, shipping, product-availability, and so on:

Email Address: glutenfreebakery [at] gmail.com
OR
ShabtaiGourmet [at] yahoo.com
Phone: (516) 374-7976 or toll-free at 1-800-SHABTAI
Address: 874 Lakeside Drive, Woodmere, NY 11598

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Gluten-Free Sale: Envirokidz Cereals - super cheap!


Talk about an extreme bargain on gluten-free cereal, I just ran into one of the best deals ever. I found this three-pack of Envirokidz gluten-free cereal which includes their Gorrilla Munch, Panda Puffs, and Koala Crisp (that I would respectively compare to mainstream brands of Original Cap'n Crunch, Captain Crunch Peanut-Butter, and Cocoa Pebbles respectively).

The pack contained three full-size / normal-size boxes of Envirokids gluten-free cereal (e.g., the Koalo Crisp cereal box was 11.5 ounce size), and you perhaps will not believe the price: $2.99! YES, $2.99 for all three boxes! Where did I find it? BJ's Wholesale Club of all places. We were walking around the store picking up some items for our holiday baking, and there in the middle of an aisle was a big pile of these multi-packs. At first I didn't pay much attention, until I saw the sign over them which said $2.99. I though, "surely that can't be for the three pack", but I quickly confirmed it upon checkout.

I am used to a single box of the gluten-free Koala Crisp being $2.49 at Trader Joe's and $2.49 at Whole Foods (that was their sale price when I looked yesterday). I have actually seen a box as high as $4.00 at my local small gluten-free store. I like the Koala Crisp quite a bit, and the Panda Puffs nice on occasion too. I can't recall if I tried the Gorilla Munch before, but I figured if I didn't like them, I could just donate them to a food shelter. Heck, it was like buying one box and getting two free.

Actually, since I only regularly eat the Koala ones, and they are nearly the same price that I would otherwise pay, I plan to go back and buy a trunk-full of these super sale-price Envirokids and give a pile of cereal (any I don't plan to consume myself) to a food bank. Why not? In fact, I presume I can write-off 2/3 of the purchase-price as a tax-deductible donation if I give 2/3 of the cereals away. That'll help some people out and give me some nice year-end charitable giving write-offs, and make the cereal even more of a bargain!

I don't know if you have a BJ Wholesale Club near you, but it you do, I hope you find these cereals at the same bargain price. I have no idea if this deal is going to last or not, so I suggest getting them while they are available and/or on sale like this.

I have to wonder if Nature's Path Foods (the manufacturer of Envirokidz brand cereals) just had a big pile of inventory to clear out in a hurry. Gluten-free is certainly a growing trend, and not just among Celiac Disease sufferers from what I have noticed, but it doesn't seem quite "main stream" enough to attract the attention of a wholesale club yet, unless there was a particular reason to sell the product.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gluten-Free Baking with Celeriac


What is it?
Celeriac, or "celery root": highly recommended addition to your gluten-free diet! I don't know where this food was my entire life, but I now know I missed out for many years. We only recently discovered Celeriac while on vacation in England, and have since found it here in the United States after looking around a bit. Turns out it is much more popular in Europe than in the Western hemisphere, which is too bad, since this is a gluten-free food that is simply excellent!

Where to find Celeriac here in the States
Look for the Celeriac in the fresh produce section of a grocer that carries substantial fresh vegetable variety, and from what I have seen in grocers near us, most will sell Celeriac by the pound (vs. piece). So far, Whole Foods Market has been the cheapest at $2.49/pound (Giant Eagle wanted $3.49/pound by comparison). It still may sound pricey compared to a potato, but Celeriac has several advantages I'll discuss here, and I must consider how $2.49/pound is less expensive than many certified gluten-free flours and such even cost.

What does it tastes like?
Think "potato" but with a pleasing celery or celery-seed flavor accent. It is a root vegetable, and like a potato, it can be eaten baked, mashed, boiled, you name it. I find the taste pleasant and mild, but noticeable enough to add additional character to soups and other dishes.

My wife first had Celeriac in mashed form in the UK, and really liked it. I like it baked with a bit of olive oil on it (as pictured below), or I quite often top it with some pasta sauce or homemade gluten-free pesto sauce, a bit of my favorite ground cheese, or many other flavorful topping options.

I'll post a simple gluten-free recipe to get you started with Celeriac in the future - a recipe I really like that is also super easy to prepare; which, is just plain old baked Celeriac like I pictured here. Basically we just chop up the cleaned and trimmed root and bake the pieces on a cookie sheet with some olive oil. I would suggest just experimenting with recipes you use potatoes in already. E.g., if you like Potato soup, Celeriac soup may be a simple alteration. And, mashed potatoes are rather simple to replace with mashed Celeriac.

As for their physical characteristics, the root portion (that you eat) tends to be about 4 to 6 inches in diameter - the one pictured (above) was something like 5 inches across. They have a very mottled texture where smaller roots have been trimmed off already - and you trim this thing down to look more like a trimmed potato when you are ready to bake it. The leafy green tops are, as perhaps you can make out in the picture, look quite similar to those on the tips of traditional Celery stalks.

(Celeriac picture: cubed and baked / roasted)


Why eat it? Tasty and Healthy!
Beyond its wonderful flavor and versatility, it makes for an incredibly healthful gluten-free diet food (or, addition to any diet, gluten-free or otherwise)! Celeriac is a low-calorie, low gylcemic-index / glycemic-load food (meaning, great option for diabetics or those with hyperglycemia concerns).

A quick comparison to potatoes can be made, since I look at Celeriac as a more healthful potato substitute (also consider Turnips / Rutabagas - these too offer much reduced calorie and glycemic-index options).

A side-by-side nutritional comparison of some gluten-free and Celiac-Disease-Safe (potato and potato-like) vegetable options appears below to round out this Gluten-Free Blog posting. Check out the dietary statistics, and see how Celeriac (and turnips or rutabagas) can be a great alternative to consider if blood-sugar control, diabetes, calorie restriction / reduction / control, a general weight-loss diet, or other concerns are part of your life:

  Celeriac Turnips Red Potatoes Baked Potato
Calories: 42 28 70 100
Fat (g): 0 0 0 0

Total Carbs (g)

9

6

16

21

++Fiber (g): 2 2 2 2
++Sugars (g): 1 4 1 1

Protein (g)

1

1

2

3

Vitamin-C (%): 13 35 14 16

Iron (%)

4

2

4

6

Calcium (%): 4 3 1 1

Potassium (%)

8

5

13

15

Est. Glycemic Load

4

2

7

9

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gluten-Free Whey Protein : Miracle GF Baking Ingredient



I just released a new Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Brownie Cookie Recipe that features whey protein isolate as an ingredient. As such, I have simultaneously posted this blog on using whey protein in your gluten-free diet and Celiac-safe baking strategy.


Using whey protein in gluten-free baking has some serious potential, as I have been busy experimenting and researching how to use this ingredient as a fantastic gluten-alternative in the pursuit of perfect gluten-free foods. After experimenting with it for a few weeks in various recipes, I am nearly ready to declare whey protein the gluten-free baking miracle ingredient, as I am getting some absolutely incredible results with this protein in recipes ranging from pancakes to cookies and more (playing with breads and pastries next - and, I can't wait to see what my wife and I come up with!)

A Quick Science-Lesson Explanation for why I tried Whey Protein
Whey protein got my interest because I needed a safe baking ingredient alternative that could potentially replace the gluten-proteins in my foods (gluten that is obviously missing now that I have to bake without it). The gluten in "normal" foods (foods with wheat, rye, barley grains and flours and compounds derived thereof) is a mixture of water-insoluble proteins (particularly gliadin and glutenin) that lend elasticity to dough and chewiness / resiliency to finished bake-goods.

My objective (in the constant pursuit of gluten-free diet perfection) is to simulate, as best as possible, the effect of gluten in foods while not using any. Since gluten is nothing more than a complex protein, I figured a great substitute would be a complex globular protein like Whey Protein. And, I knew I had found what I was looking for when I tried some plain Whey Protein powder - I just put a teaspoon of it in my mouth (nearly flavorless by the way), and noticed how it quickly turned into a chewing-gum like substance as the proteins developed with just the water in my mouth. Plus, whey protein is easily digestible, so it should be well tolerated by many people.

Types of Whey Protein on the Market
When discussing Whey Protein, there are different types available. You will see all sorts of products on the market labeled as Whey Protein and Whey Protein Concentrates, and then there are some that are Whey Protein Isolates. Isolates are processed to remove the fat, and lactose — they are 90%+ protein by weight, and this is what I settled on for my baking strategy (Isolate). Speaking of protein, an ounce of this product has 25-grams of protein (i.e., half the published government "Daily Value" requirement) with only 105 total calories and nearly zero fat/cholesterol.

The first thing you need to do is ensure you find a brand that is definitely gluten-free, and this can be difficult, as most of the commercial Whey Protein products you will find in grocery stores (like Target, CVS, etc) as well as "health stores" (like GNC) have gluten-containing ingredients and flavoring in them. In addition, many of the whey protein products I saw sold at retail were rather expensive. I looked over countless products until finding some good "safe" gluten free varieties to try out, and even longer before I found one at what I considered a reasonable price.

The Whey Protein Isolate I chose to Use
At first I wondered if the addition of gums (guar gum, xanthan gum, etc) in some brands of Whey Protein was making any substantial contribution to the overall texture and consistency of the finished baked-goods I was creating. I wanted a product that would allow for others to duplicate the results I get, knowing exactly what was and what was not of significance in impacting the texture and consistency of the baked items.

So, I searched until I found a completely pure Whey Protein Isolate in a brand called Now Sports Whey Protein Isolate (pictured above). And, as you'll find on their product page, the product:

"Contains no: sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, egg or preservatives.", and for those interested, they also say:
"Voted 2005 Whole Foods Magazine “Best Sports Supplement” (I guess that is a "plus").
There are definitely no added gums in this product either, and no added flavorings or sweeteners. The only additional ingredient (less than 1%), is some soy lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier and should not even be an issue for anyone worried about soy allergies - since lecithin does not contain any of the soy proteins.

Having removed gums and thickeners from the equation, I could experiment knowing that whatever results I obtained were completely attributable to the addition of Whey Protein and not due to other "trace" ingredients.




What it looks like (a Powder)
I included the picture above so you could get a quick feel for what the whey protein isolate powder looks like. It is just an off-white light powder. I just sprinkled a little on a very dark-red plate for that picture.


Where to get the Gluten-Free Whey Protein
Now Sports has a "where to buy" finder tool on their site (to locate retailers in your area - since they don't seem to sell direct on their website), but I decided to go searching the web for the best deal I could find. I located it at a place called Outlet Nutrition, which had the large and economical 5 pound tubs of Now Sports Whey Protein Isolate for only $35.97 (price at the time). The order went smoothly, and the product was delivered quickly and packaged wonderfully (boxed with plenty of bubble-wrap - a "must have" when anyone ships with UPS!).

To give you a feel for how much gluten-free baking you can do with 5 pounds of this stuff: the container calls a "serving size" one scoop, which is 28 grams (i.e., essentially one ounce of whey protein concentrate). Thus, there are basically 80 servings in 5 pounds. I have determined that their "scoop" is approximately 3/8th Cup (i.e., 6 Tablespoons). As such, a tub of this protein will go a long way -- we only used 1/4 cup in a whole batch of cookies for example, and I use just a Tablespoon or two in my pancakes.

Baking / Recipe Results
The results in my baking experiments have been fantastic. It took a bit of time to get the proportions right, and adjust my bake times, liquid content proportions, fiber proportion, and other ingredients, but the end result is quite encouraging.

One of my long-time pursuits has been what I'll call "Gluten-Free pancake perfection". I love pancakes, and I always have. I mean, gee... the name says it all "pan CAKES" :) A cake has to 1) rise substantially, and 2) have nice resiliency and texture.

The pancakes I have been making lately are huge - I use the full surface of a 10-inch round cast-iron griddle (a favorite pan) - and with the whey protein isolate the results are amazing and meet my criteria for great cakes too. I have created pancakes that are 10" in diameter and a full inch thick, plus with enough sponginess / elasticity that I can grab an edge and shake the pancake without any chance of it crumbling or ripping apart. The interior of the pancakes are well developed and bread/cake-like. It's just wonderful (and even amazing - given that there is no gluten involved).

Those Chocolate Coconut Gluten-Free Cookies I mentioned earlier are also an example of what the whey protein can be used for. Although the whey was used rather sparingly in the cookies, it definitely helped with the binding and texture.

I have found that, in general, when using this Whey Protein Isolate in my gluten-free recipes, I need to play around to get the proportions right. Too much, and you may get something a bit too rubbery. It seems to require more liquid in recipes too (not too surprising, as this powder readily absorbs liquid when mixed). Also, the protein works best when combined with the right amount of fibrous ingredients (I have found pumpkin to be a nice fiber-rich source to use, and there are many other options).

In fact, one of the first gluten-free whey protein products I experimented (which worked as a "miracle additive" in my pancakes too) was this brand of Biochem Fitness "Raw Foods & Whey" (vanilla flavor - packet pictured below) which includes 3 grams of fiber per ounce by using a combination of Fig, Buckwheat, Millet, Pumpkin, Red Bean, Brown Rice, and Burdock Root in the product. It was quite nice. I got that at Whole Foods Market, and though it was a bit expensive (about $2.00/ounce), it goes a long way (one packet lasted through 4 pan-sized super-pancakes) I'd surely use it again, especially because it removed some of the guesswork regarding what other fiber-containing ingredients I would add.



I will be posting some other gluten-free recipes using whey-protein in the future, so stay tuned. This additive / ingredient could be quite useful in your gluten-free diet.

UPDATE 1 - PRODUCT SOURCE AND PRICE (Oct-2008):
Since I first wrote this, the original place I purchased the NOW brand isolated whey protein from raised their price considerably. I suggest shopping around.

I found it on Amazon.com for $35.97 per 5# tub, and reasonable shipping.




UPDATE 2 - PRODUCT SOURCE AND PRICE (May-2011):
I have written an UPDATE BLOG ENTRY about gluten-free whey-protein and its current price (link);  in summary, it is now up to approximately $53.00 (delivered) for a 5# container of isolated whey protein by Now (brand).  See that link to my recent blog for more details and link to seller's website.


UPDATE 3 - PRODUCT SOURCE AND PRICE (Jan-2017):
I again updated my BLOG ENTRY about gluten-free whey-protein and its current price (link);  in summary, the new price is $66.00 (delivered) for a 5# container of isolated whey protein by Now (brand).  See that link to my recent blog for more details and link to seller's website.


Gluten-Free Recipe: Chocolate Coconut Brownie Cookies


Another original gluten-free recipe from Laura: Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Brownie Cookies (hyperlink to recipe). These cookies are what I would best describe as a hybrid cookie / brownie. They are perhaps what a Chocolate and Coconut "Haystack" would be if it was turned into a cookie. One way or the other, they are delicious and pack plenty of flavor along with a pleasing cookie or cake-type brownie texture.

These cookies arise from some experimentation with gluten-free recipes and baking with gluten-free whey protein isolate. As such, today's gluten-free recipe is being released in tandem with another blog posting here about Gluten-Free Whey Protein in Recipes / Baking, where I discuss in much more detail why we used some whey protein in these cookies and how you can find certified gluten-free whey protein isolate if you are interested (it's lactose free by the way).

I also plan to feature more whey-protein-containing recipes in the future, since this really is an incredible gluten-free baking ingredient/additive that can be used to mimic gluten on some level - perhaps even being a full gluten-replacement ingredient in some recipes from my experience. In the meantime, enjoy these wonderful gluten-free cookies just in time for the Christmas holiday baking season. They are bound to be a hit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gluten-Free Pesto Chicken Parmesan Recipe



I just finished posting a pair of my favorite gluten-free recipes online at my free recipe library site - a homemade Gluten-Free Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto Recipe (as pictured above) and a Gluten-Free Pesto Chicken Parmesan Recipe (pictured below) which puts that homemade pesto to use in a delicious combination of chicken, pesto, and cheese.

I love pesto! I enjoy the traditional / standard basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine-nuts variety quite a bit. And, I also like extensions on this theme; by adding ingredients like Onions and Sun-Dried Tomatoes to the pesto, simple and versatile flavorful variations arise and present new opportunity for further derivative-recipe experimentation - like the enhanced Chicken Parmesan recipe.

This pair of recipes formed the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinner this year. We decided to skip the traditional turkey and serve up something a bit different for the event. Since we were only serving a small number of people, cooking an entire turkey (or even a turkey breast) was just more than we wanted to deal with. So, pesto and chicken Parmesan it was - and a great success it was too! These recipes were definitely a hit with everyone that has tried them.

One thing I really like about pestos is how incredibly versatile they are, and how pesto can easily add flavor and excitement to all sorts of dishes. We make a fairly good sized batch of pesto at a time (as shown in the glass dish above), so I nearly always have leftovers for other creations. I put pesto on my gluten-free pasta, potatos, tortillas, baked celeriac (celery root - I have a recipe coming for this soon too), and many other items in my gluten-free diet. It is just a wonderful addition to so many recipes.

Here's hoping you too will enjoy the pesto and chicken recipes as much as I do!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gluten Free Recipes: Chocolate-Chip Angel Food Cake



I recently wrote a Gluten-Free Blog entry about a free Pumpkin Crème Brulée Recipe (link to full recipe) my wife made and posted online. After baking the Creme Brulee, we had a large number of egg whites remaining. So, my resourceful wife decided the best thing to do with them would be to bake up a new gluten-free Angel Food cake variation.

This is simply a variation to the existing gluten-free and dairy-free Angel Food Cake recipe in our Gluten-Free Desserts book (page 68). It removes the lemon juice/zest, and adds a bit or orange juice and almond flavoring, and of course chocolate chips (to remain dairy-free, you'll have to make sure you use dairy-free chocolate chips of course).

The detailed recipe modifications are online here:
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cake Recipe

I really enjoyed this cake! I have always been a fan of a good Angel Food cake, and this latest chocolate chip variation was a hit with both Celiac diet people and "normal" diet folks equally. I have an admitted weakness for chocolate, so the addition of chocolate chips only accentuated my hunger for this cake!

The exceptionally mild orange/almond undertones also furthered my enjoyment. Another nice thing about Angel Food Cake (in general, whether gluten-free diet type or regular), is that they are low-fat and should have no cholesterol either (even this one variation - especially if using dairy-free chocolate chips). The cake also tends to be rather high in protein (given the large number of egg whites used).

Hope you enjoy the variation as much as I did! I'm glad I took the photos of the dessert when I did, since the cake didn't last much longer thereafter. :)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gluten-Free Recipe: Pumpkin Crème Brulée



Pumpkin Crème Brulée Recipe (link to recipe) - a perfect gluten-free dessert recipe for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday season, presuming you can tolerate dairy in your diet. I'm perhaps a couple days late posting this recipe here on the Gluten-Free Blog (for Thanksgiving that is), but this recipe will come in handy all year round and is bound to be a favorite among any that enjoy the rich creamy texture of Crème Brulée with the flavor of pumpkin, cinnamon, and vanilla!

I'm not going to try selling this recipe as a particularly healthy gluten-free diet addition, since it is one of the ultimate rich desserts. This is a full-cream Pumpkin Crème Brulée recipe that has a subtle, yet flavorful, pumpkin flavor throughout the rich custard. It can optionally be topped with a carmelized sugar layer if you prefer the traditional burnt-sugar top. In the Creme Brulee pictured above, we used our oven's broiler to slightly caramelize the top layer - since we didn't have a kitchen torch / creme-brulee-torch handy (that's a $20 item now on our Christmas gift list since we couldn't find one out at the stores before baking this dessert).

The recipe, like most creme brulee recipes, is rather straightforward and easy to prepare. It's mainly cream, sugar, and egg yolks (plus pumpkin and some spices) - all of which should be items easily acquired as safe-for-Celiac / gluten-free certified . It should take not too much over an hour to prepare this dish (including bake time). You will still want to plan ahead, since you will most likely want to serve it fully chilled (the dessert will keep fine in the refrigerator for a few days).

I hope you enjoy the recipe! I have been snacking on a couple of these dessert cups for a few days now - sorta pacing myself as to keep the calories consumed at one sitting to a minimum, and loving the fact I've had Pumpkin Crème Brulée for a few days running now :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Multi-Berry Crisp


Today's Gluten-Free Recipe is a Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Multi-Berry Crisp Recipe. There are actually two recipe variations, which I will discuss shortly. Either variation makes for a delicious gluten-free dessert.

This is a simple and quick to prepare gluten-free recipe featuring a combination of your favorite berries (in my case, this included a medley of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries), coupled with a delightful, flavorful, and healthy gluten-free grains blend.

The first variation uses certified gluten-free oats as one of the grains of choice. If your gluten-free diet does not include such oats, then the second variation substitutes another grain instead. Both recipes use Quinoa Flakes, Flaxseed meal, and Buckwheat Groats (which ARE gluten-free, and add a nice toasted-grain flavor when baked).

Speaking of buckwheat, it seems there are still plenty of Celiacs out there, and others on a gluten-free diet, that are still receiving misinformation about buckwheat. I continue to encounter people that have not yet learned that Buckwheat is gluten free (as long as not contaminated with other gluten-containing grains) and appears in many commercial gluten-free products too. I'll be writing a detailed gluten-free blog article about buckwheat, why it is gluten-free, and a look at a few of my favorite buckwheat-containing commercial products, baking ingredients, and recipes too.

In the meantime, enjoy the Gluten-Free Berry Crisp Recipe (available on my free Gluten-Free Recipes Library site at that link)!

Last, if any of you are interested in my Gluten-Free Desserts book, I have decided to participate in the famed "Black Friday" with my own Gluten-Free Black Friday Sale this week. I'll post more about that tomorrow, but regardless, the sale will occur this Friday right after Thanksgiving 2007, as the Christmas 2007 holiday shopping season kicks off in full. I know people have been crunched with high gas prices, inflation in general, and so forth, so I will ease the burden on anyone shopping for gluten-free gifts - at least when it comes to cookbooks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Donate Rice while improving your Vocabulary


Perhaps you have already encountered this interesting way to increase charitable giving of food, but it was news to me when I recently heard about it. Through an interactive online vocabulary game, FreeRice.com provides a rather unique way to encourage participation in a campaign to address world hunger.

You are presented with a vocabulary word, and for each word definition you choose correctly (from 4 possibilities), 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations Food Program. Perhaps it doesn't sound like much, but after "playing" the game for a short while, I quickly reached in excess of 1000 grains donated, which I would expect could be enough to help alleviate hunger in at least one person for a meal for a day. It's a start.

The "game" is addictive. It is seriously challenging, as with each correct answer, the difficulty level of the vocabulary word will increase. I found it rather tough after hitting the high-30's, and I plateaued at level 43. This "challenge" alone kept me playing the rice donation game for quite a while, which is the idea (and a good one at that). It is engaging, and you'll find your vocabulary improving while you play, and your donated rice piles (graphical piles are displayed as you go) will grow.

I also did check to see whether this site was for real (i.e., truly charitable, and all proceeds going to the advertised cause), and it appears to be the case. The following is a quote from the site, which I will assume to be fact:

"Does FreeRice make any money from this?

FreeRice and its sister site Poverty.com have not made a penny from this. Nor does it cost us much, as our only significant expense is our servers."


With Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, I can't help thinking how many less-fortunate people around the planet are in need of food. My participation via this rice donation site may be a small way to increase giving, but when multiplied by thousands of people (or millions) also making a small contribution, suddenly there is hope of making a real impact.

I couldn't help wondering why in particular Rice was the chosen grain to donate. Rice just happens to be Gluten-Free, but if the donations had been wheat or some other grain, I'd still have participated. Perhaps Rice is just the best grain to distribute for many reasons, whether potential for allergies with other grains, or because much of the rice produced these days is slightly fortified during processing (which would help address some nutritional deficiencies), or perhaps it is just the least expensive way to feed the most people. Either way, I find this rice donation program noteworthy.

Unrelated: Gluten-Free Cavemen
Although I missed the episode, a friend called to tell me about how Celiac Disease (or, more specifically, gluten) was a big topic on ABC's "Cavemen" television show during the "Rock Vote!" 11/13/07, Rock The Vote episode. Did any of you see it?

It is still available online here: http://dynamic.abc.go.com/streaming/landing

From what I hear (I have yet to take time to view it), it was rather funny (though not particularly accurate with regards to Gluten and gluten-free diet issues), as a war was waged on Gluten during the election. Being a comedy, I'm not surprised it wasn't completely accurate, but one way or the other, it should raise awareness of the fact that many of us live gluten-free. I hear there was some discussion of how gluten-free food didn't taste the best -- perhaps I need to talk to ABC about this and bake some great gluten-free cookies or cake for them! :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gluten-Free Brown Cow Yogurt Coupons


I have been a fan of Brown Cow Yogurts for some time, whether for their low fat variety, Non-Fat type, or the rich and creamy aptly-named Cream-Top yogurt they produce. Their yogurts all have wonderful probiotics / live active cultures (body-friendly healthful bacteria like S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus and Bifidus) in them which are certainly good for our gluten-free diet options as well as our digestive tracts, presuming milk products are tolerable in your diet.

Brown Cow certifies most of their yogurts as Gluten-Free and includes this gluten-free statement on their website to quickly help you find which varieties are safe for Celiac Disease and gluten-intolerant people. In short, it can be summarized with the first paragraph, which states:
"Are all Brown Cow products certified gluten-free? Our Fruit & Whole Grains yogurts contain gluten, and we make our smoothies in a facility that has not yet been certified gluten-free. Otherwise, our yogurts are certified gluten-free."
Now, to the coupons! I noticed they have online "E-Coupons" available. You can currently get between 50 cents and a dollar off many of their products via the Brown Cow Coupon Page -- it asks for an Email address, then you get to choose from several coupon options to print.

The only down-side to their E-Coupons (in my opinion) is how their site makes you install a coupon-printing helper-control in your browser, and it requires Internet Explorer, which is all a bit lame quite frankly. I personally didn't care, because I just installed it into a "safe" virtual-machine I use for browsing the web, but it was still an added hassle. If you don't mind their website installing this "MeadCo ScriptX" ActiveX scripting/printing control used to print the E-coupon, then you can save some money -- you'll have to make that decision. I have to say to the Brown Cow company: please consider a user-friendlier alternative to this coupon-printing method, especially one that works with browsers other than Windows Internet-Explorer! You don't want to lose prospective buyers over technical constraints imposed on them.

Well, if the coupons are accessible and useful to you, enjoy that Gluten-Free Brown Cow Yogurt! Even if you can't get the coupons, I recommend their gluten-free products. I really like their yogurts, and tend to purchase the quart-sized containers since I eat so much yogurt. Their flavored yogurts are quite nice, and I also get the plain variety to which I add my favorite fruits and berries (and, I use it when making things like low-fat hummus too). Although I admit to liking the thicker, richer cream-top yogurt, I also like their lower-fat diet options too.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Golden KiwiFruit (kiwi)


My wife found these Golden Kiwi Fruit at the store recently, and I must say, they make a delicious gluten-free diet addition. I was never a huge fan of the standard Kiwi (the green ones), but I really like these gold kiwifruit. They have a rather sweet, less acidic taste that is definitely tropical in nature.

These particular specimens originated in New Zealand, which is second only to Italy in kiwifruit production - oddly, though native to China and declared China's "national fruit", China doesn't produce enough kiwi to appear in the top-10 producers list. With all the recalls of Chinese products and food these days, I'll admit that I feel much safer consuming Kiwi originating from New Zealand that I would if they had come from China.

I'm always glad to find new foods to mix into my gluten-free diet, and adding a new fruit to the mix is rather simple since fruit in general contains no gluten. Variety in the fruits and vegetables category will help make up for some of those wheat and gluten-containing foods that you can no longer eat. And, these make for a health diet addition too, since they are high in Fiber, Vitamin-C, and Potassium (by weight, just slightly lower potassium than a banana).

There is very little waste with kiwifruit also - especially with these golden fruit that have been cultivated to have less "hair" on the outside, so you can just wash them off and scrub loose what little bit of "hairy" coating there is and eat them whole. You can also certainly use a spoon to eat the center, leaving a very fine skin to be disposed of.

I definitely recommend these things, and if you get a chance to add them to your gluten-free diet, you will probably be happy you did. A tasty, healthy, natural treat for all of us with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance - excellent!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gluten-Free Diet hits the MSN.COM "A-List"


My daughter noticed this on MSN.com today, and I just had to take a snapshot of the MSN homepage showing that "Gluten-Free Diet" is currently an "A-List Search" term! (note: I added the yellow ellipse in the picture above). It's sort of interesting that such a search term would rank right up there with the Princess Diana inquest, election results, and Rosie O'Donnell.

Perhaps Gluten-Free Diets are really taking off these days, and maybe even for more people than just Celiac sufferers and the gluten intolerant among the population. Maybe a lot of people are just simultaneously recognizing various symptoms of potential Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance in their lives too. Or, maybe it is that all of us that are Gluten-Free are just getting ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season and the gluten-free baking that we're going to have to do soon (or, perhaps we're even searching for those special gluten-free diet christmas gifts).

Maybe it has been rumored that the gluten-free diet is the cure-all for various non-Celiac-related conditions too, or perhaps someone hyped it as a great weight-loss diet. Well, whatever the case, it is rather fascinating to me that for a condition / disease that supposedly only affects perhaps one in a hundred, there sure are a lot of people performing searches for gluten-free diet items (at least according to MSN today). The way I see it, exposure and recognition of the condition and the diet are what matters, and even something as simple as "Gluten Free Diet" being a top search-term for a while is a great thing to help this along.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gluten-Free Cocoa Crispy Rice Cereal Review



I found this New Morning brand Gluten-Free Cocoa Crispy Rice this weekend at Trader Joe's here in the Cleveland, Ohio area. It was featured as a "new item" in the store, and I had no prior first hand experience with it. As is my normal behavior when venturing into the unknown with a new gluten-free product, I just purchased a single box package.

I am please to report, I really liked these crunchy, and lightly sweetened, cocoa rice crispy bits. They held up nice in milk, and were both good for snacking on plain or eating for a breakfast cereal. They seem to be less sweet than many others I have tried, and I like it this way. There are only 120 calories per 3/4-cup serving, and 10grams of sugar per serving (compare that to 14grams, or 40% more per sugar, per the same 3/4 cup serving size in Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies - which are also not gluten-free from what I can tell, since they have malt flavoring for starters). The fact that the New Morning brand (unlike many others) are made from organic brown rice and have no artificial flavors and preservatives either is a nice selling point too for me. But, first and foremost, this New Morning Cocoa Crispy Rice had a nice pleasing cocoa / chocolate flavor and a nice crunch.

I guess it shouldn't be too surprising that these were a quality product, and clearly labeled gluten-free, since as I discovered later when searching the web for that link to the cereal I provided earlier, that the New Morning brand is owned by a company called U.S. Mills, which also owns the Erewhon brand (I prefer their crispy brown rice - gluten-free variety - for marshmallow crispy treats). I actually plan to try these cocoa ones in a marshmallow treat of some sorts, though being pre-sweetened, that may be overkill. Now, perhaps with peanut-butter? hmmm.... maybe :)

I'm putting this gluten-free product on my list of ones to definitely buy again. And, you don't have to be a Celiac (Coeliac) or on a gluten-free diet to enjoy this cereal.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes Summary


Just in time for Halloween, I want to recap some of the gluten-free and wheat-free pumpkin-featuring recipes that I have made available both recently and over the past year online. These gluten-free recipes include everything from main-courses to side dishes to desserts, and pumpkin provides the Celiac-safe ingredient of inspiration for each creation.

Note: the hyperlinks (blue, underscored text) within the text below links to the page(s) with the actual recipes. I didn't want to repeat the full recipe text for each of these here, since it is just a click away already.

Now, since I am definitely a fan of gluten-free desserts, especially around the Holidays when there are ample excuses to bake some extra treats, let me start with those recipes.

Dessert Recipes

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll
A perennial favorite this time of year is the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll recipe. This particular pumpkin roll has that flavorful pumpkin spice-cake rolled around a layer of sweetened cream cheese filling. The whole creation is dusted with a bit of powdered sugar, and served chilled. What a fantastic way to enjoy that pumpkin!



Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Here is a quick and easy pumpkin-accent cake that will fit the season well: Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake recipe. A nice blend of spices - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (and even a bit of cocoa!) - give this cake much of the same overall flavor as a pumpkin pie would enjoy. And, it is quick and simple to prepare.


Main Courses and Side-Dishes
Are pancakes a main course?

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes
I don't know about you, but for me, Pancakes do count as a main course on more than a few occasions. So, here is one type of Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe that I enjoy on occasion. I say "one type" because I tend to regularly vary the ingredients, especially the flours that I use, on a rather ad-hoc basis. Some days I'll use some Millet flour, other days will include Sorghum, and still others the Teff and Buckwheat (which IS safe for Celiac sufferers in its pure form - it is NOT a wheat, though it sounds like it). I also have a tendency to throw a few chocolate chips into the mix and turn the whole pancake into a giant cookie of sorts :)



Pumpkin as Pasta
I recently wrote a blog about using pumpkin as a "pasta" of sorts. As such, this dish works well as both a main course or a side dish - take your pick. Quite often, it is a wonderful low-calorie and healthy feature item for my dinner. It is simple to prepare, mild in flavor (primarily taking on the flavor of whatever pasta sauce you choose), and starts using pumpkin in its most basic form, without the usual pumpkin-pie spices many are accustomed to. This recipe relies on the basic baked-pumpkin recipe.


Standard Baked Pumpkin Recipe
I wrote this gluten-free blog entry just a while back, about how to prepare a small pumpkin-pie type pumpkin as a baked pumpkin for eating as you would any other baked squash. It is quite simple to take a pumpkin, "gut it", place it in the oven, and produce a healthy and satisfying dish (or foundation for other recipes). And, speaking of a foundation for other recipes, I'll move on to another recipe which features this baked pumpkin...



Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto
And now, for a wonderful pumpkin-accent side dish for the season, do not forget the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto Recipe. It has a mild, pleasant flavor, with just a hint of cinnamon to go along with the very subtle pumpkin undertones. It relies on the baked pumpkin recipe again, though you could probably just as easily use canned pumpkin if you choose.


Happy Halloween!
Certainly all these recipes could make for some great Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes as well, so keep them close at hand for any of those leftover pumpkins you may have sitting around in a month. I know I'll be feasting on various pumpkin recipes for the next few months, as I have already cooked up quite a pile of pumpkins and have frozen their cooked pulp for later. Happy Halloween everyone, and happy pumpkin eating too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones Book



I have had quite a few people asking me about when our Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones book would be available for purchase, and instead of continually responding to individual Emails regarding the status, I wanted to let everyone know what the plans are at this time.

In short, we currently plan to release the Biscotti book as an "E-Book" - essentially a downloadable Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file that is a fully-formatted, full-color book that can be viewed on your computer or printed if you so desire. In addition, I've decided I will release that book for free, certainly to any of our existing customers, and possibly to the public at large.

When I tell people this, I have had more than a few ask "why would you ever give something like that away for free?". They just can't understand why, if I could make money from it, I would not do so. And, when I explain my reasons, they still tend to think I am a bit strange or perhaps even a bit ignorant to consider giving away great gluten-free recipes instead of charging for them.

So, why would I do this?
Here's the basic rundown:
  • My goal, first and foremost, when developing the Gluten-Free Recipes book (the Gourmet Desserts book) was to provide others with Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance, with a way to finally enjoy desserts that were just like the "real" ones they used to eat. Period. I assumed that, for those forced to consume gluten-free foods for the remainder of their lives like me, finding dessert recipes that were just as good (or better in some cases) than the real thing would make living gluten-free much more tolerable, and perhaps even enjoyable. It has worked for me, and I hope others get the same satisfaction from the recipes in our book.
  • My goal, is to continue to get great recipes out to Celiac (Coeliac) Disease Sufferers and help them enjoy a normal life, even while living gluten-free.
  • I haven't been concerned about getting rich, finding fame, or making money from this endeavor, though I'd certainly welcome the chance to recoup my publishing and printing investment. Rather, doing the right thing to help a large group of people find normalcy in life is more important than financial returns. Now, if only our medical system worked this way!
That sums it up.

Since starting the whole book sales effort not quite a year ago with our now popular Gluten-Free Gourmet Desserts book, we have learned a lot about what the implications of self-publishing and marketing are too. After investing a lot of time and effort developing recipes, then came doing all the photography, publishing, printing, shipping, storing, and distributing of the books. Plus, having self-published this gluten-free recipes book, I also had to pay all the printing costs for a couple thousand books at a time, and find space to store the printed books as I sell them (print-on-demand is not an option for doing full-color books - even if it could be done, it'd cost more to print the book than the book sells for). This is all rather resource-intensive.

So, before printing another book, I have to consider all this: my reasons for doing the book, plus the resource-requirements when I proceed. My primary reason to PRINT a book (instead of doing an electronic book) is a simple one: I like to have cookbooks that I can just pull off the shelf when I want to bake, as I find this much simpler than having to go look at the computer and/or print off a couple pages of content each time I want to bake a recipe. I think many of us who bake a lot prefer actual books, especially when it is a book filled with recipes we regularly use - like, in our case, the Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes, which are always within reach. But, if I have to, I can deal with electronic books and online content when a printed and bound version of some favorite recipes is not available. I'm guessing others can accept an "E-Book" format if needed too.

Now, to the status of the Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones book in particular. Our daughter, who was doing much of the work on the Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones book, is busy working on her PhD in English currently, and though she hoped to finish the book this Summer, sadly it is still in need of additional work prior to publication. It's easily half done or more, but my wife and I are still working on recipes for it, and when we get the desired content completed, we'll release it. At this time, it sure looks like it will be a freely available and simple PDF download in full-color and all, as I don't think I will take time to print the book unless there is overwhelming demand for hard copy.

As I said earlier, I plan to make the Biscotti and Scones book available (when complete) for free to any existing customers, and there is a good chance I will just release it for free to anyone that wants it. It may be a while yet, but sooner or later it should reach a state of completion and be available as a nice addition to your Gluten-Free Recipe Books collection. In the mean-time, for those of you who don't know, we do have some free recipes online already for some wonderful breads, pizza crusts, waffles, and much more, over at our online Gluten-Free Recipes Library. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gluten-Free Pumpkin "Pasta"



Here is another one of the Gluten-Free Recipes I have been enjoying during the Fall, just in time for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the pumpkin harvest season in general. Pumpkins are such a wonderful, healthy gluten-free food, it is a shame to not find ways to use them more often than just the standard gluten-free desserts like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and so forth.

What many people do not realize is how mild the taste of pumpkin on its own really is. And, so often pumpkins are only associated with the complementary flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, clove,... that we tend to forget what pumpkins taste like in their natural state.

I've recently been baking all sorts of dishes using the small "pumpkin-pie" type pumpkins. They are a squash, and they have a flavor, on their own, that is nearly as mild as what would be found in a Spaghetti Squash. The flesh is tender, low in calories, of a low glycemic index, and full of beta-carotene and natural fiber. They are quick and easy to prepare, and keep for a nice amount of time prior to cooking, and after cooking the flesh can be stored frozen indefinitely for later consumption.

So, today's "recipe" leverages my previous gluten-free recipe that I posted here: gluten-free baked pumpkin recipe. In fact, there really is not much more to be done - just prepare the baked pumpkin as described earlier, then top with your favorite pasta-sauce! I love this dish! In fact, I find it as enjoyable as any gluten-free pasta, and had I not been on a gluten-free / Celiac Disease diet, I would still work this recipe into a "normal" diet along with standard semolina pasta - it's that good.

I topped this particular batch of pumpkin "pasta" (pictured above) with my favorite pre-made bottled sauce: Gia Russo's Hot Sicilian Sauce; which, though not specifically labeled gluten-free, contains no gluten-containing ingredients in the sauce and no warnings of it being prepared in a shared facility or such. The spicy/tangy nature of this tomato sauce makes for a really flavor-packed "pasta" dish, and one that is low in calories and packed with nutrition. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bargains at Jigsaw Health - Gluten-Free Bars and other products being discontinued

[UPDATE: The product (Jigsaw Bars) appear to no longer exist, sorry to say]
I have been a real fan of Jigsaw Health's Jigsaw Bars, not just because they are gluten-free bars, but because I really like the taste and texture and the fact they are sweetened with Xylitol instead of sugar. I wrote a Jigsaw Bar review on the Gluten-Free Blog a while back if you want more details of my opinion of the product.

Sadly, I just received an Email from Jigsaw Health saying that they are discontinuing these bars which I have come to love and consume regularly, and that they are offering the buy-one-get-one-free deal while supplies last, and free shipping over $69.00. I really liked how Jigsaw paid attention to labeling their products "gluten free" (or, containing no gluten, etc.) which made shopping through them much easier. And, this is one of those cases of a great gluten-free product (the Jigsaw Bars) just not getting enough press, market attention, and ultimately sales.

You can create a great gluten-free product, but if you can't find the market you need to support your manufacturing and sales operation, even the best product will disappear before it ever really takes off. I am definitely bummed out by this news about the Jigsaw Bar, as I will now need to seek an alternative product, and to date I have yet to encounter anything else that really offers what I want in such a product. Luckily, I have already tested freezing these things, and I just ordered a pile of them to put away for the next year or two.

I still want to talk to Pat Sullivan, the head of Jigsaw Health, and see if he'd consider just putting the product "on hold" for a while to see if enough demand can be generated to resurrect the bars in the not-to-distant future. And, if not, I'd like to see if by any (very outside) chance, would he be willing to release the gluten-free recipes / formulas for the Chocolate and Coconut-Almond jigsaw bars to the public-domain? I realize he used some hard to come by (from an individual's standpoint) high-end ingredients in those bars, like the whey-protein-crispy-things and the Omega-3 extracts and more, but if I could adapt the recipe and at least come close with something I could formulate at home, I'd gladly give it a try and release the resulting recipe for others. Perhaps Pat will be able to sell the rights to the formula to another manufacturer and recoup some of his investment instead, which I surely wouldn't blame him for if he can, and if it gave me a new commercial source for the bars again, that'd also be fine. But, if not, I'd sure like to try to bake / make such a thing myself.

In addition to the Jigsaw Bars, Jigsaw Health has other products - everything from vitamins and supplements to Xylitol products, and so much more - on sale right now, as they reduce their product offerings to focus on sustainability of their business. Since I already put in my order, I'm no longer worried about not getting my bars and a few other products before they sell out :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CNN to host Celiac Disease Week

For those of you with cable television and access to the news channel CNN, October 15th-19th CNN will feature a series of segments highlighting several aspects of Celiac Disease. CNN is joining in on the October Celiac Awareness Month to assist with educating Americans about Coeliac Disease and the Gluten-Free diet.

It turns out that CNN news anchor Heidi Collins is a Celiac sufferer, and during her show (9AM-Noon EST) starting on Monday October 15th, she'll present the following news:

Monday: What is celiac disease?
Dr. Aline Charabaty of Georgetown University Medical Center's Division of Gastroenterology will join CNN's Heidi Collins in the Newsroom to discuss the basics of celiac disease, diagnosis and treatment with a gluten-free diet.

Tuesday: "Non-Gastrointestinal Complications of Celiac Disease."
Dr. Richard Mandel of the Center for Advanced Orthopedics in Philadelphia will discuss the orthopedic complications of celiac disease and celiac patients can improve bone health. Also in the CNN Newsroom, Dr. Robert Mangione, dean of the St. Johns University College of Pharmacy, will explain how gluten in medication can impact celiac patients and discuss the immediate need for labeling of gluten in medication.

Wednesday: "Gluten-Free School Lunches."
Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) will offer tips for safely sending celiac children to school and federal school lunch requirements to provide gluten-free meals.

Thursday: "Hope with Celiac Disease."
Vanessa Maltin of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Beyond Rice Cakes author will be on CNN discussing new resources available to help patients cope with celiac disease including cookbooks, video podcasts, cupcake parties and celiac camps.

Friday: "Gluten-Free Dining in Restaurants."
Tips for managing food allergies at restaurants and how patients can ensure a safe dining experience.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto

The Fall presents plenty of opportunity to create some wonderful gluten-free recipes during the time of Halloween and Thanksgiving. One of the stars of the season is pumpkin, which happens to be in-season just at the right time for these holidays. As such, the holidays bring with them an expectation (at least for me) of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin roll,... but now I also see other great uses for this healthy and versatile squash.

I recently wrote a gluten-free blog entry about one such recipe, a super-healthy gluten-free baked pumpkin recipe (the blog also discussed the potential health benefits of cinnamon too if you're interested). Further extending the reach of pumpkin into other gluten-free main-course and gluten free side-dish options today is a recipe that takes the baked pumpkin from earlier and uses it as a featured ingredient in a new dish my wife created:
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto
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That's a picture of the final product, sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon on top. It's not one of the better pictures I've taken, but I think it's good enough to get a feel for what to expect.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Risotto (uncooked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ¾ Cup Vegetable Broth
  • ¾ Cup Organic Whole Milk*
  • Cups Water
  • ¼ Teaspoon Salt (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ Teaspoon Cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 Cup (packed) Flesh from Cooked Pumpkin-Pie Pumpkin (i.e., approximately half of one small baked pumpkin-pie pumpkin)

*Note: Can substitute soy milk for the organic whole milk. Or, remove milk and increase vegetable broth to 1 Cup and water to 2 Cups. Risotto will not be as creamy with such substitutions.


Directions
  • Begin by baking the pumpkin pie pumpkin according to my prior blog (baked pumpkin recipe) and go as far as scraping out the cooked flesh into a bowl (once baked pumpkin is cool enough to safely handle). Once pumpkin flesh is ready for use, proceed.
  • In medium (2 Quart) sauce pan stir together Risotto and olive oil over medium-high heat. Continue to stir for approximately one minute.
  • Add remaining ingredients (this includes the pumpkin) and stir. Bring to boil and then cover. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes (Check after 20 minutes. If liquid has been absorbed and a creamy sauce remains, Risotto is done - if not, stir and continue to simmer until done.
  • Give the risotto a final stir prior to serving. Garnish (optionally) with Cinnamon as pictured.
That's the recipe, sweet and simple. It yields a risotto with a pleasant, mild accent flavor that just makes it stand out from plain risotto, as well as fit in as a perfect Halloween or Thanksgiving dinner addition. I have specifically targeted using fresh-cooked pumpkin from scratch as the pumpkin ingredient of choice. I don't know how the recipe would perform with canned pumpkin, but you could certainly try it.

Since I picked up 60 of these locally-grown pumpkin pie pumpkins (at the bargain-price of 3 for a dollar!) from farms near my parent's place here in Ohio, I've been busy cooking pumpkins quite regularly. 20 bucks worth of pumpkins filled nearly the entire trunk of my car. So, now I'm busily trying to get through 6 to 9 pumpkins a day - baking them, digging out the centers, and freezing the pumpkin flesh for future (off-season) gluten-free recipes use.

This works quite well by the way (freezing the flesh for later), as I tested it out before buying a pile of pumpkins. Simply place the cooked flesh in freezer bags or freezer containers, allow to cool to room temperature, then pre-chill in the refrigerator, and finally move them to the freezer for long-term storage. When ready to use, simply extract from the freezer, thaw the pumpkin flesh, and include in your recipes.

I have been working on additional pumpkin themed recipes, and I plan to add all these recipes to my online gluten-free recipes library as time permits (in addition to here on the Gluten Free Blog). Enjoy!